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* GIS (Geographic Information System): GIS Software Options

This guide can help in getting started with GIS, finding data, and getting help.


There are many different GIS software packages available. Each software package will have strengths and weaknesses which can make choosing difficult. Below are a few options that are commonly used here at the University of Rochester but this list is by no means comprehensive. For other options you can view this page.

Licensing and Activation

ESRI products may need licensing and activation depending on your use. Below is information on accessing and licensing ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Pro:

ArcGIS Online: for new ArcGIS Online users please access the University of Rochester ArcGIS Online page at and click "UR Login" to create your account.  Users with existing ArcGIS Online accounts can continue using their accounts OR create a new one by clicking "UR Login".  Existing users who create a new account will now have 2 accounts which are not connected.  For help moving content from an old account to a new account please contact Blair Tinker

ArcGIS Pro: ArcGIS Pro licensing is still best done through the University's license server. 

You can obtain the latest ArcGIS Pro installer here:

In "ArcGIS Pro" click on "Settings" and then "Licensing" and then “Configure License Options” 

Choose concurrent licensing and enter and "OK".


NOTE:  You must be on a University of Rochester network or VPN to connect to the license server.  Once you are licensed you can check out a license so that the software will operate offline.  Please only check out a license if you need to.

For help installing and licensing ArcGIS Pro please contact Blair Tinker

Desktop Applications

ArcGIS Pro: The University of Rochester maintains a site license to a comprehensive set of ESRI ArcGIS software. ArcGIS Pro (recommended) and ArcGIS Desktop (soon to be deprecated) are installed on all IT maintained public PCs on River Campus. ESRI desktop  products are primarily Windows only (they can be run on Macs that have Windows installed). Licensing information can be found on the University IT Licensing page for all other cases including installs on personal PCs.  If you have questions or problems installing or licensing ESRI Software please contact Blair Tinker in Digital Scholarship.

QGIS: QGIS is an opensource desktop software package similar to the ESRI options and is also installed on all public PCs on River Campus. It is free and opensource and is available for PC, Mac and Linux.

Online Applications

ArcGIS Online is a powerful cloud based online GIS and mapping tool that the University has access too as part of our ESRI software site license. It can be used as a stand alone tool or can be used in conjunction with ESRI desktop mapping tools. From the ESRI website: "ArcGIS Online is a cloud-based mapping and analysis solution. Use it to make maps, analyze data, and to share and collaborate. Get access to workflow-specific apps, maps and data from around the globe, and tools for being mobile in the field. Your data and maps are stored in a secure and private infrastructure and can be configured to meet your mapping and IT requirements." 

Google Maps (My Maps) and Google Earth can be used to quickly create simple maps and visualizations that can be easily embedded in most online publishing platforms. Due to licensing and privacy concerns Google Maps is only recommended for small, quick projects.

OpenLayers and Leaflet are not stand alone applications but are open source web mapping libraries that allow for the creation of customized applications and maps. While these libraries may have a steep learning curve it allows for the creation of royalty and copyright free web applications.

Learning and Training

Look below to learn more about GIS and mapping and access some resources we have at U of R. If you would like to be informed about GIS related workshops, events or news on campus please email to be put on the mailing list.

CAS251/EES251 is taught periodically as an interdisciplinary course in GIS methods and software. The course focuses on making sure each student leaves with a working understanding of GIS software so that they can apply the methods in their own course of study. ArcGIS Pro and QGIS are the main software tools covered.

Books Held in the Library: the library has several versions of the popular "Getting to Know" series for learning ArcGIS. There are several versions of the books which should be matched to the software version: ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Desktop

Online Training: ESRI provides an extensive catalog of tutorials, walk-throughs, videos, online courses and in person training via ESRI Training. Some of the courses are free to the public and others you will need to log into your ArcGIS Online account to access. To get an ArcGIS online account or for questions please contact Blair Tinker.

Monroe Community College: MCC offers a range of GIS courses as part of their Geographic Information Science and Technology certificate program.